Save Money by Studying Abroad

Study Abroad in Europe

Study Abroad in Europe

Imagine this: a university degree program where you can study whatever you want, alongside diverse and dynamic students and professors, complete with a study abroad element, the opportunity to travel, competitiveness on the global marketplace, as well as a foreign language element that all but guarantees fluency upon graduation.

Now imagine that this degree program was tuition-free. No need to apply for grants and scholarships, just free of charge right out-of-the-box. It may sound impossible, but I am here to tell you it is not. I graduated from one of these programs. What is the name of this program and why have I not heard of it before, you may ask? Because it is an unconventional educational choice for Americans: it is called College Abroad.

The United States has been and continues to be the most popular destination for international students, and until now there was little incentive for Americans to fully enroll in a foreign university. But times change.

According to the World Economic Forum, the US currently ranks 13th in the world on economic and educational competitiveness. 123 of the top 200 universities as ranked by the Times Higher Education are located outside the United States. Between 2000 and 2011, tuition at American public universities rose by 42 percent (U.S. Department of Education). A report compiled by the Institute for International Education indicates that there is a strong desire by universities throughout the world to increase their enrollment of Americans for full-time study. American students, who made up only 1.4% of the internationally mobile students in 2010, are not gaining the intercultural communication skills, the global perspective, the resourcefulness and independence, and perhaps most importantly, the additional language skills that students from many other countries are honing.

And meanwhile, universities outside the United States tend to charge tuition fees at a fraction of even in-state tuition at American public schools. For example, Quacquarelli Symonds, another global ranking system, ranks the University of Wisconsin-Madison number 37 in the world, while Seoul National University in South Korea was 35 in 2013.  Tuition in Seoul is roughly $4,600 per year while in Madison you’ll pay $26,600 ($10,000 for Wisconsin residents). SNU also offers almost all of its undergraduate courses in English.

Similarly, the Free University of Berlin, where I’m currently enrolled as a PhD student and where English language programs abound, is, unsurprisingly, free and ranked 109th by QS. Compare this to Penn State, ranked 107th, where a doctorate comparable to mine in international relations would run me somewhere in the neighborhood of $13,000. Not only are tuition fees generally lower outside the US, but in many countries BA programs are three years long while MA programs are one. This means one less year of already-low tuition.

Before I joined FUB, I completed my Masters at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany for zero tuition. While my degree programs were in English, living in Germany allowed me to become fluent in German. I also received funding to study and live in Israel and Hungary, where I learned some Hungarian and I saw first-hand the epicenter of interest in international politics as I regularly traveled between East and West Jerusalem. I have studied with students from places like Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and China. Class discussions with such a diverse group were an education in and of itself.

Furthermore, living in Europe allowed me to travel extensively throughout the continent, as well as the Middle East and North Africa. Had I attended an MA program in the US, I probably would have paid between $25,000 and $35,000.  And while I loved my time at Knox College in Illinois, I genuinely wish I had considered the college abroad option for my undergraduate so as to avoid student loan debt entirely.

Of course, there are costs associated with college abroad.  The cost of living must be taken into account but the student lifestyle can be dirt-cheap.  Besides that, international flights might be the next biggest cost, but I’ve been able to find flights between the US and Europe for as little as $400.  And then there are the emotional costs in terms of homesickness and culture shock.

While these are difficult costs to bear, they are also profound learning experiences and instill a strong sense of maturity and self-awareness.  So if you can see yourself spending your semesters in Barcelona, Sao Paulo, or Osaka and never filling out a FAFSA, pack up your bags and pick my complete guide on becoming an international student, College Abroad, available now at Amazon.

The amazon link to the book is, and my personal blog about going to school abroad

Holly Oberle, the author of “College Abroad”, was a guest on “College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on November 23rd, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Leaf Languages

How to Get the Most out of your Study Abroad Experience

Study Abroad in Italy

I will start with the fact that the first week in a foreign country, when you don’t know anyone or where to go or the language, can be terrifying. And believe me, my first night in Italy, I cried and questioned my whole decision. I was ready to get back on the plane and return to beautiful America where everything is familiar. Luckily, I stuck it out. I began questioning if I had chosen the right country and I was flooded with doubt (called my mom and cried) but I would soon come to love Italy!

I have some tips for those of you who want to study abroad. First of all, wait until you’re in your new country to get a little go-phone for emergencies and get apps like Viber for your iPhone if you have one. When you are in a foreign country, it is so easy to get lost and end up somewhere sketchy, so my advice is to always travel in groups.

I kind of enjoy getting lost, and I would sometimes venture alone to have my own adventures. However, the girls who lived above me in my apartment were robbed and hit by a man who stole their money, so remember things like that do happen. Be smart and realize who is following you. A few times I was being followed so I went around in circles as you never want to lead someone to where you live.

After you are a little more familiar with your country, you get to know the local things like the markets. I LOVED the markets. After going a few times, the dreamy butcher knew what I wanted before I even said anything. My cheese man gave me discounts and everyone was always smiling with their fresh produce.

My advice is to just immerse yourself; don’t hold back. You might look dumb because you don’t know how to do things, like not knowing what the Italian grocery girl is telling you while you hold up the line because you forgot to weigh your produce. And going to the post office might seem dull, but everything is an adventure. Embrace it. Go to the local places and try to avoid the touristy places. Try to speak the language. I did not know a lick of Italian before going, but after I had my first hour long conversation in Italian, I felt like I could fly. There is something freeing and exhilarating about communicating in a different language.

Get to know the country where you are studying before planning trips to other places. There are so many places to go in Europe but you first need to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. The more you know about your country, the less you feel like a visitor. I visited five other countries while abroad in Italy.

My advice is to plan your trips early because the earlier you plan, the cheaper the tickets. Also, this might just be me, but I found it so much easier to go on trips with just one other person instead of groups. When too many people go, there are too many conflicting ideas. Travel companies give students great deals, but they are usually not the best trips. I would recommend planning things yourself. It is more work but you get to go wherever you want.

Also, budget yourself. It’s easy to spend all your money, but do not be afraid to say no to some trips you don’t really want to go on. Don’t eat out all the time, go to the market and grocery store and save some money. Do not shop until you drop, and if you do, find the weekly markets where clothes are 50 cents. They exist. I digress. On these trips, do not pack your life. Bring bare essentials.

During our fall break, we went to Ireland and England and I only brought one backpack for 10 days. You can do it. Hostels can be sketchy and nasty, so you should bring shower shoes and check for bed bugs. These places can be cheap but you will meet lots of interesting people.

When you’re not traveling, you’re going to school, which is even better as well. I took pairing food and wine, learned about the mafia, and made sterling silver jewelry. There are classes for everyone. Different countries have different rules. For example, we couldn’t turn on our heat whenever we wanted and they regulated our air conditioning. If they found paper in the trash instead of the recycling and it had your address on it, they would fine you. When you leave your windows open at night, a bat may fly in and fly around your kitchen.

Also, ladies, the guys will tell you that you’re beautiful and that they are in love after talking to you for 5 minutes. Do not believe them. They are going to be cute and charming, but remember to test them because they might do that to every American girl they see. I had a few great guys, and I’d love to tell you those stories if you want, but there was not a day I walked down the street and was not whistled at or told to come to them. It’s a great confidence booster though :). There are creeps though; one guy bit my neck out of nowhere while dancing. Needless to say, I shoved him off and went somewhere else.

The effect that studying abroad had on me was unbelievable. It may sound cheesy but living in another culture does make you wiser. It gives you new perspectives on things in your life.

This post was provided by Hannah Cutbirth, a senior at Texas A&M University, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on September 21st, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: archer10 (Dennis)

On a Budget? 10 Ways to Save Money at College

professorsMost every student wants to get the most bang for the buck at college.  And who can blame them?  With the price of college running at more than double the rate of inflation, every dollar counts.  And it’s not just the standing costs – tuition and fees, and room and board – it’s the recurring day-to-day costs that can leave a hole in your pocket.  No worries.   You’ll save real money if you follow our top 10 tips: 

1.  Think about flying the coop.  Many students who start college living in the dorms wind up finishing college living in the dorms.  But in many cases, dorms are overpriced and tether you to a meal plan that also could be overpriced.  By your second, and surely third year you should be considering other living arrangements:  apartments, fraternities and sororities, special interest housing arrangements, and other locally-available alternatives.  Not only can you save a bundle, you can customize your living arrangement to the way you want it.

2.  Tame the costs of books.  With the average student spending over $600 a semester on textbooks, this is a natural place to trim your expenses.  Many colleges have made it easy, too.  Professors are required to post reading lists months in advance of the start of classes, and alternative buying arrangements are often available on the college-bookstore- or course webpage.  Things to consider: do you want new or used, do you want print or e-, do you need the current edition or will the previous one do just fine, do you want to own the book or would a semester-long rental be adequate?   Figure out what’s best for each course you’re taking and you can save hundreds of dollars a year.

5-Star Tip:  For all book modalities (print, e-, and rentals), check out the aggregators (sometimes called meta-sites):  these are websites that compare the prices of many other bookselling websites.  Two we especially like are and   (others include,,, and, for rentals, and

3.  Buy academic-priced software.   If you’re wedded to Microsoft Office (which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a number of other programs), you’ll be pleased to learn that Microsoft offers a special discount for college students:  4 years of “cloud-based” Office for about $20 a year (click here, you need your campus e-mail address to order).   For those watching their pennies, Apache’s OpenOffice and the open source LibreOffice, are downloadable for 100% free (can’t beat that).  If you’re expecting to do heavy graphics, search for Adobe Creative Suite at a student price (search the web or check your campus computer store – they’re likely to know about this and other student-priced software).

4.  Get a cheaper device.  Many students starting college lunge at the most expensive devices possible:  a fancy, full-sized tablet or one of the new, and expensive, Ultrabook notebooks.   In many cases, though, you can make do with much less:  a mini tablet, a less powerful (and less expensive) notebook, or sometimes a mere e-reader.  One  notebook we especially like (compact, good processor, long battery life) is the Asus Vivo Book X202E (or S200E)–make sure you get the 3rd generation Intel chip;  in tablets, the Microsoft Surface 10.6″ 32GB is an especially good deal right now.

5.  Get some apps.  If you’re one of the 100-million or so people worldwide who own an iPhone, you’ll want to get some apps especially tailored to college (most of them will set you back a buck or two or three).  Some we like include:
iStudiezPro (organizing your schedule)
PocketList (to-do lists)
EverNote (notetaking)
Wikipanion (Wikipedia)
MentalCase and FlashCard++ (flashcards)
Chegg (study help)
Graphing Calculator (just like the handheld model, and includes screenshots)
The Chemical Touch (periodic table)
Instapaper (stores web pages)
iTranslator (translations for your language courses) (lots of words you don’t know)
BlackboardLearn (hooks up with your school’s course management and grade reporting system)
My GPACalculator (includes “what if” scenarios so you can fantasize about getting an A in that killer statistics course).

6.  Take advantage of e-services.   Try Amazon and eBay for just about any merchandise (Amazon often offers special shipping discounts for students);  Priceline, Hotwire, and for airline tickets;  Netflix for movies;  and Pandora for music. 

Extra Pointer: skip a trip.  Travel, especially airline travel, can be very expensive, especially if you want to travel at peak times.  If you’re a little short on cash – and don’t have terribly magnanimous parents – consider foregoing the trip home for Thanksgiving.  You’ll see your parents in just three weeks for Christmas, so save your $500 and tell your parents to freeze the pumpkin pie.

7.  Check your car insurance.  Especially if you live in a big, freeway-laden city, car insurance can be super-expensive.  Try to stay under your parent’s policy, if you’re of appropriate age.  If not, ask your insurance agent for “Student” or “Good Grades” Discount (that is, assuming you have good grades).   Also, if you’re only driving a few miles per day, make sure your policy is rating as “pleasure” driving;  your rate will be cheaper.

On the Web.  Be sure to check out web-based insurance companies, for example, 21st Century, Geico, and USAA (if you have a military background).  They’re likely to be cheaper than in-person agents.

8.  Use the facilities.  No, not those facilities.  We’re thinking about the recreational and academic services you paid for as part of your student fees:   Olympic-sized swimming pools, Apple-endowed computer labs – not to mention the free tutoring service, writing center, and math lab.  And, if you’re not feeling up to par, or college isn’t turning out to be quite as happy as you expected, be sure to check out the university health service or counseling center.  You’ve already paid for them, too.

9.  Travel on their dime.  Wanna see the world?  Consider the study abroad program.  Many colleges have special scholarships or stipends to enable students to do research abroad or to take courses at “sister” universities.  This can be a wonderful opportunity to improve your language skills, to do research in countries where the materials to be studied actually exist, and to take courses at colleges where they actually specialize in what you’re interested in.

10.  Drop early.  Many students procrastinate about everything, including dropping a course they know they’re doing bad in and will never finish.  At schools at which you’re paying by the course (or credit hour), you’ll get a much bigger refund if you drop in an early week of the semester.  So bail, and save.

If you liked the tips in this article, you’ll love the 837 tips in the new book, The Secrets of College Success: Over 800 Tips, Techniques, and Strategies Revealed.  Write professors Lynn F Jacobs and Jeremy S Hyman with questions or blog ideas at  And follow them on Twitter @professorsguide

This article was provided by Jeremy S Hyman, co-author of The Secrets of College Success: Over 800 Tips, Techniques, and Strategies Revealed, 2nd Edition, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on August 7th, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

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